The barbs came as Bush made his most formal, extended appeal to Democrats as he toured the Rust Belt and his Democratic challenger focused on the economy during stops in Iowa and Minnesota with less than one week to go until Election Day.
Kerry accused Bush on Wednesday of "dodging and bobbing and weaving" on explanations for nearly 400 tons of missing explosives in Iraq.
"The missing explosives could very likely be in the hands of terrorists and insurgents, who are actually attacking our forces now 80 times a day on average," Kerry said earlier at a rally in Sioux City. "But now today we've learned even more. What we're seeing is a White House that is dodging and bobbing and weaving in their usual efforts to avoid responsibility, just as they've done every step of the way in our involvement in Iraq."
Kerry said Vice President Dick Cheney "is becoming the chief minister of disinformation" while the president remains silent on the matter.
Click here for Wednesday's edition of FOXNews.com's daily campaign digest, Trail Tales.
Bush said his presidential challenger was making wild charges without knowing the facts.
"A political candidate who jumps to conclusion without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief," the president said in a speech in Lititz, Pa.
"Now the senator is making wild charges about missing explosives when his top foreign policy adviser admits, quote, 'We do not know the facts.'" Bush said. "Think about that — the senator's denigrating the action of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts. Unfortunately, that's part of a pattern of saying almost anything to get elected."
Bush was referring to remarks made by Kerry adviser Richard Holbrooke (search) Tuesday in an interview with FOX News. "The U.N. inspectors had told the American military this was a major depot," Holbrooke said, adding, "I don't know what happened. I do know one thing — in most administrations the buck stops in the Oval Office."
Kerry campaign adviser Mike McCurry told reporters Wednesday that the campaign is "trying to be very careful" about the missing ammunition issue.
"We are not suggesting that we know for certain that the material from that facility has been used," he said. "There is good evidence that some of that material could have been used, but we're not there, we're not on the ground, we can't establish that with certainty. And I think that's why you've heard Senator Kerry be very careful about that — it 'could be,' 'can be,' 'might be' because we just don't know on that."
Cheney, campaigning near the heart of the most heavily contested area of Florida, said the facts surrounding the missing explosives are unclear, that Kerry "doesn't know" the answers and that Holbrooke "admitted as much." He renewed his criticism that "John Kerry will say and do anything except give our troops the backing and praise they deserve."
Sen. John Edwards, Kerry's running mate, on Wednesday criticized Bush for talking to Democrats "for the first time, six days before the election." The North Carolina senator said the country wants a president who will unite it and not divide it with "a record of fear and failure."
Kerry and the Democrats have been using the issue as a campaign lightning rod, saying it's a prime example of how Bush has failed as a commander-in-chief and accusing the administration of negligence. News of the lost materials surfaced Monday despite the fact that the administration and international weapons inspectors knew in May 2003 that the explosives, one-tenth of 1 percent of the total number of explosives confiscated by U.S. forces, had gone missing.
"Today George W. Bush made a very compelling and thoughtful argument for why he should not be re-elected. In his own words ... 'a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief,'" former presidential hopeful, Gen. Wesley Clark, said Wednesday.
"President Bush couldn't be more right. He jumped to conclusions about any connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. He jumped to conclusions about weapons of mass destruction ... and because he jumped to conclusions, terrorists and insurgents in Iraq may very well have their hands on powerful explosives to attack our troops, we are stuck in Iraq without a plan to win the peace, and Americans are less safe both at home and abroad."
Bush Woos Dem Voters; Kerry Talks Economy
Bush appeared later in the day at a rally in Ohio and was also headed to Michigan, states where polls show a tight race just a week before Election Day.
Bush turned to maverick Democratic Sen. Zell Miller (search) of Georgia to introduce him Wednesday at Pennsylvania and Ohio events, in keeping with his late-breaking appeals to Democrats who aren't sold on their own party's nominee.
The president has been talking up the "great tradition of the Democratic Party," citing the steeliness in crises shown by the likes of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, to make the point Kerry doesn't measure up.
In Vienna, Ohio, Bush spoke about the second-guessing and "armchair quarterbacking" that he says his Democratic challenger has been partaking in.
Bush's first stop of the day was beside a small, wind-swept airfield in Lititz, Pa., where the late-October breeze bore the scent of cow manure from nearby farms.
In remarks repeated nearly word for word later in the day in Ohio, Bush devoted about a quarter of his speech to an appeal to Democrats — although he acknowledged "they are not going to agree with me on every issue."
He invoked the names of Democrats Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy by way of accusing Kerry of "taking a narrow, defensive view of the War on Terror," then summoned memories of Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey to accuse his rival of shortchanging public education. Bill Clinton, he added, signed legislation that Kerry opposed to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
Bush also mentioned the "moral clarity" of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat who supported legislation to ban so-called partial-birth abortions — a bill Kerry has consistently opposed.
"Many Democrats look at my opponent and see an attitude that is much more extreme," added the president. "If you're a Democrat, and your dreams and goals are not found in the far left wing of the Democrat Party. I'd be honored to have your vote."
Not if Kerry could help it — and Bush's appeal was too much for Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. "All of us who revere the strength and resolve of President Kennedy will be supporting John Kerry on Election Day," the daughter of the assassinated president said in a statement.
For the third consecutive day, Kerry assailed Bush over the disappearance of nearly 400 tons of explosives in Iraq.
"The missing explosives could very likely be in the hands of terrorists and insurgents, who are actually attacking our forces now 80 times a day on average," the Democrat said in Iowa, a state with seven electoral votes where polls show him and Bush in a tight race.
"What we're seeing is a White House that is dodging and bobbing and weaving in their usual efforts to avoid responsibility, just as they've done every step of the way in our involvement in Iraq," Kerry said.
Like Bush, Kerry mentioned past presidents to put his rival in an unfavorable light.
"I will never give any other nation or organization a veto over our national security. But I will never forget what Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan all knew — that America is stronger, our troops are safer, and success is more certain when we build and lead strong alliances, not when we go it alone," he said.
Kerry also said Bush had sold out the middle class in favor of helping the wealthy, and added he wants "four more years so that he can keep up the bad work."
Kerry addressed economic concerns in Sioux City, Iowa, before stumping in Minnesota and back in Iowa, at a Cedar Rapids event. The latest polls suggest Bush enjoys a 4-percentage point lead in Iowa — a state that Al Gore (search) won four years ago.
"After four years in office, this president has failed middle-class families with almost every choice he's made. He's given more to those with the most at the expense of middle-class working families who are struggling to get ahead," Kerry told a rally in Sioux City. "Now he's asking you to give him four more years so that he can keep up the bad work."
Aides see Kerry's Wednesday speech and one coming Friday that will blend his campaign's economic and foreign policy proposals as his "closing arguments" for change. Kerry likely will mention Iraq every chance he gets in the waning days before Election Day, aides added.
After ripping Kerry for weeks as an equivocator, Bush planned to close the contest with a 60-second commercial meant to show he's steady, trustworthy and compassionate in these dangerous times.
Aides said the ad includes footage of an emotional president telling the Republican National Convention (search) about meeting the children of slain U.S. soldiers.
Bring on the Surrogates
Rocker Bruce Springsteen is joining the Kerry campaign, attending rallies in Madison, Wis., and Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday. Springsteen also will join Kerry for an election eve rally in Cleveland, Ohio, on Nov. 1. Actor Ashton Kutcher has been campaigning with Kerry's running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
"My dad always told me when opportunity knocks, don't just open the door, invite him in, offer him a beer and ask him how he's doing. I've done that with John Kerry and John Edwards and they're doing fine," Kutcher said during an event in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is bringing his star power — and moderate GOP reputation — to Bush's side in Ohio on Friday. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani also has been campaigning with Bush.
Hard-hitting leaflets lined mailboxes in a dozen or so hotly contested states. A glossy mailing by the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee showed burning roadside wreckage in Iraq, with U.S. soldiers looking on, and the headline "Wrong Choices ... Less Secure."
A Republican National Committee mailing showed pictures of Jane Fonda and Michael Moore, two anti-war liberals supporting Kerry, and the headline, "John Kerry's heart and soul of America?"
New state polls suggested the race was deadlocked in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the three most important battlegrounds in the race for 270 Electoral College votes. A Los Angeles Times survey joined a pile pointing to a national dead heat. Bush and Kerry were 48-48 in that poll.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.